Tag Archives: permaculture

Don’t just do something, sit there… The power of the sit spot.


I think i saw a hare today! It was jumping about under some trees, bigger than a rabbit, with big ears, and much more of a hopping gait. I got to watch it hop from one tree to the next. It did a few circles around the place i had recently walked through – i guess i had made it smell human and funny with my bare feet – and then it buzzed off. I don’t think it spotted me – I had been sitting very still, wearing earthy colours under a nearby oak tree for 45 minutes by that point… I had been sitting (and at one point snoozing)  listening to the daytime birds sing their evening songs and occasional alarm calls, in a world of falling acorns, rustling leaves, eternal branches and dappled shadows. At one particularly magical point I heard a night time bird start its weird hooting.

I’m having a rare few week where i have some unscheduled time – I’m not teaching, consulting, learning or moving between countries. So finally all the things i need to give some time to, have some time. I have a very full to do list, several actually, and despite that, for these 2 weeks I have committed to go out into the woods and sit still, observing the life around me for at least 30 minutes every day. Its one of the core nature connection routines that i use to keep me open, connected, and aware. Its called a sit spot, and I came across it in the 8 Shields/Nature Culture Network movement a few years ago.

If I sit down in a life-filled place, and stay quiet for about 20 minutes (less if i have walked in slowly and quietly), the birds stop fussing about me being there, and then the other animals stop worrying that the birds are fussing, and life in all its shapes and sizes and colours and patterns and gaits, goes back to baseline. It helps if I’m wearing broken pattern earthy coloured clothing too, but the time, silence and stillness are far more important. Then a fox may stroll in, sit for a while, licking itself in a sunbeam, and stroll away again. Or a hare (?) might lopingly bounce through the woods, with huge ears. Or an arrow like bird fly straight in front of me. More likely, i will simply hear the sounds of life all around me – the falling leaves and nuts and branches, the birds seeking insects in the leaf mulch, the alarm calls and joyous songs of the treetop birds, all the rich and deep aural tapestry of ancient English woodland. It doesn’t have to be about charismatic animals and birds – time spent looking at a half disintegrated holly leaf, or watching an ant on the ground can bring me so much.

I value and prioritise this ‘do nothing’ nature connection time because it does a lot for me (and even knowing that, i still need to set daily  commitments to make me do it…) It is a rich, connecting, heart opening, relaxing, learning experience that brings me closer to the more than human world, closer to the complex, interdependent, diverse,  beautiful systems dynamics that my work in regenerative design is based on. ‘Nature’ observation is the foundation of Permaculture design – using the patterns and principles and techniques of the inherently regenerative ecosystems around us to design systems for ourselves (hoses, gardens, communities, farms). And even if it wasn’t so fundamental to my conscious design work, spending time each day listening to bird song, leaves rustle, acorns fall, creeping out barefoot among the oak and holly trees, seeing the sky through the tree branches, sensing how it all changes slightly everyday, nourishes me in deep ways i deeply appreciate, do not fully understand, and love.

Abundance springs from relationships

My life seems to be characterised by abundance at the moment. An abundance of places to be, people to be with, courses to teach, learning experiences to have, beautiful sights to see. The financial side still lags a little, probably because I have a pattern of not prioritising it enough…

I am on a cruise ship from Stockholm to Finland at the moment, passing tideless granite archipelagoes covered in fir trees. I am heading to Finland to teach a Permaculture Design Course near Turku. The midsummer is a time of abundance I suppose, made glorious by the long days and flourishing wildlife. Long and full days of carrying food to eager baby birds; of stretching up into the sunshine as the soil moisture levels slowly drop; of collecting the nectar from flowers to store in the hive…

How to catch and store this abundance? ( ‘Catch and tore energy’ is one of my favourite permaculture principles). On the last weekend of the excellent Facilitator Development Adventure (a course I took over the last 9 months with Chris Johnstone and Jenny Mackewn) I committed to several things as part of our ‘Going Forth’/ section. One of them is to spend an hour a week publishing myself digitally. This week, I do it through this blog post.

My life at present is a long journey through amazing and beautiful, regenerative places, and I hope some snapshots from it can inspire and interest you.

A few weeks ago I was at Tamera, a pioneering social and ecological community in South West Portugal. I was attending their Water Symposium, and listening to a speaker from Auroville in Southern India. He was talking about the community/city of 2,500 people that lived there, how the knowledge gained there over the 45 years of their existence has led them to be called upon to create wildlife wetland reserves in place of polluted waterways in other Indian cities; how they set up spirulina tanks in schools to help nourish the children; how they had reforested huge areas, and learnt from local healers; how they cook for over 800 people using solar ovens.

Yesterday I was in Stockholm, being shown around a permaculture holding on the island of Drottningholm. My overnight sleeper train from Koln to Copenhagen was delayed and my Finnish host rescheduled my Stockholm-Turku ferry until the following morning and arranged for me to stay with one of her friends in Stockholm, a permaculturalist called Noa. He proudly showed me his wooden family house that he and his family had renovated – a real fairytale gem of a building built as the summer residence for a Count in times past. I swam in the river (Fjord? Sea? Estuary?… there’s a lot of waterscape in Stockholm) and ate a lovely meal with him and his partner.Image

I think we both gained a lot from the meeting – I know I did, and it reminds me of the quote I have heard from Starhawk (author of what I realised last week is my favourite book – The Fifth Sacred Thing) – that abundance springs from relationships. I could have gone to a youth hostel, paid someone I hardly spoke to for a bed for the night, then travelled on, getting some take out food from somewhere on a city street. That would have been a more consumer evening, and much better for the GDP aand economic growth, and for the large corporations that have their ways of benefiting from all our small and large financial transactional relationships (the abundance in those relationships inexorably flows towards the top of the financial food chain, mitigated to some extent if you are careful and seek out the smaller businesses and use them).

Noa and I, and hopefully his family, had a great evening of connecting, sharing ideas and inspirations, and I had a lovely swim and a nourishing meal, some of which was vibrant ‘weeds’ from his garden. The relationship brought us both abundance, because we were given a container of trust for each other by my Finnish host, and the Permaculture networks we both move within. How much more abundance is possible when these containers of trust allow the resources and energy to flow between people. From love to food to ‘work’ to entertainment, we all need things from other people and other systems every day. How can we facilitate abundance to flow to and from us by building appropriate trust and connections around us and other people? How can we learn to share more, and receive more?

There are many web based systems that enable sharing of spaces (sofasurfing), unwanted resources (freegle), community action (Transition groups) and more. How can we build trust amongst ourselves in the many communities that we are engaged in, trust that we will receive what we need as we give what we can to the wider systems?

I have a notion that the financial economic system is one pretty dysfunctional way of building this trust – that we will receive what we need in return for the time we spend helping others, and I also suspect there are many other less tangible, more functional systems that also meet our needs, like intimate relationships, family groupings, friendship circles, sports teams, carers… How can we meet more of our needs outside the dysfunctional economic system that funnels away the abundance, or change it so that the abundance can flow around us rather than away to those who have a lot of it already?

Abundance springs from relationships. Permaculture is the study of relationships, and how to make decisions, tweaks and systems designs that make the relationships more and more regenerative – so they regenerate the people, wildlife and landscapes around them.

How can you build more trust, place more trust in your relationships, to allow them to bring you more abundance? What can you do today and tomorrow towards that?

My ferry nears Turku, through the abundance of fir trees, wooden houses and granite islands.